1. Go. Writers—those often troubled, insufficiently loved individuals who've spent thousands of hours hunched over a keyboard crafting something especially for YOU—need all the support you can afford to give. When Joyce Carol Oates was at Barnes & Noble discussing her fictional Marilyn Monroe biography, Blonde, you would have expected a line stretching to Tiffany's, with book lovers squeezed between the Oprah-approved and Harry Potter shelves, or at least butts on all the seats.... Alas, maybe 25 people came to receive a glimpse into one of America's most creative minds. If Britney Spears had been speaking about how much she appreciates Pepsi sponsoring her tour, all of Pacific Place's five floors couldn't have accommodated the crowd. Brilliant authors or teen pop stars? Our culture's future is yours to decide.
2. Diversify. So what if some National Book Award-winner scolded you for gabbing during his reading; you can take your shamed self to another one of Seattle's many bookstores. University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400) vies with Elliott Bay Book Co. (101 S. Main, 624-6600) for hosting the nation's literary greats. A few steps from Pioneer Square, Seattle Mystery Bookshop (117 Cherry, 587-5737) has got just about everyone in the "whodunit" market signing their works, while Open Books (2414 N. 45th, 633-0811) is the place to see the best of the Northwest poets. Capitol Hill's Richard Hugo House (1634 11th, 322-7030) always manages to invite eclectic, intelligent literati, and a few blocks down Broadway Bailey/Coy Books (414 E. Broadway, 323-8842) stuns audiences with the few authors they present each year (as well as the wine and cheese they sometimes serve at book release parties). If you're aching to venture outside Seattle, ferry to Bainbridge Island's Eagle Harbor Book Co. (157 Winslow Way E., 842-5332) or drive to Third Place Books (17171 Bothell Way N.E., 366-3333) in Lake Forest Park. Both manage to wrangle in some major names.
3. Bring something—anything— to get signed. If you don't own the featured author's memoir, grab another object for his signature: his essay collection; that gushing People magazine profile; his wife's novella; your white lace panties. Just don't come empty-handed, because not only are most author appearances free, they're also ways for you to make money one day. When France goes Communist and the country burns all its historical texts, won't you be happy you asked Adam Gopnik (Third Place Books and Elliott Bay Book Co., Sept. 19) to sign Paris to the Moon? Or when Chuck Pahlaniuck's Choke (Northwest Bookfest, Oct. 20-21) is turned into the highest-grossing movie of the 21st century, won't you read the words he wrote in your copy of Fight Club—STOP HARASSING ME!—in an entirely new way? Try eBay before you hit the pawn shop.
4. Ask questions. It's an unfortunate truth that a lot of writers can't read aloud very well—and even if they can, they're usually incapable of moving an audience by sharing a six-page snippet from their 1,224-page tome. That's why it's up to you to come with questions. You might never see this person again, except in print, so ask what you most want to know: In which journal did they publish their first short story? How many Pulitzer Prizes have they won again? Any writing tips for aspiring authors addicted to author appearances? But remember, contrary to what your fifth-grade teacher taught you, there are dumb questions. When Salman Rushdie (Town Hall, Sept. 18) journeys to Seattle, don't inquire about his address. Similarly, Naomi Wolf (UW campus, Oct. 1) probably won't want to answer what she'd do if she were trapped in an elevator with Camille Paglia.
5. Don't talk about your autobiography-in-progress. Or your partially done epic poem or any other work you're struggling to complete. A book reading is the author's time in the spotlight—not yours. When Lily Burana visits with Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America (University Book Store, Oct. 10), she most likely won't want to hear how you're penning your own account of working as a Chippendale dancer one winter. Likewise, when Ursula K. Le Guin signs copies of her newest sci-fi novel, The Other Wind (Elliott Bay Book Co., Oct. 19), she won't have time to listen to you boast about that Astronaut Erotica collection you're posting on your Web site. Save your personal stories for your therapist and your laptop, and you might end up where these authors are now.
6. Whenever possible, buy homegrown. If there's a living clich鬠it's a writer residing in New York, N.Y. But unless we support our local literary talents, chances are they'll worm their way into the Big Apple with the hopes of making the connections they can't seem to establish at their barista jobs in Bellevue. To save your loved ones from paying Chrysler building-high rents and authoring photo captions for The National Enquirer, check out monthly reading series such as "It's About Time" (Seattle Public Library) and "Titlewave" (Titlewave Books) to discover what Seattle's lesser-known scribes are writing. Richard Hugo House's annual inquiry series—this year titled "MAPS" (Oct. 5-7)—often features the city's edgier talents, while respected regional authors congregate at Northwest Bookfest (Stadium Exhibition Center, Oct. 20-21), which this time round includes Alexa Albert, Charles Cross, Walt Crowley, Carole L. Glickfeld, and Ann Rule, among dozens of others.
7. Use your power. Seattle's known as a book town—and an important stop on the national reading circuit—thanks to you. If you've enjoyed hearing someone—perhaps Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister author Gregory Maguire (Bailey/ Coy Books, Oct. 25) or Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, (who speaks as part of the Seattle Arts & Lecture series, Town Hall, Nov. 27)—let the "little people" arranging these appearances know which big personalities you'd like to encounter sometime soon. And after you've flexed your consumer's muscle, do what you did for the author: Say thank you.